Preview: Michigan State Spartans

Adreian Payne will anchor a fast, running Michigan State offense. Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State Spartans

2012-13: 27-9 (13-5)
In-conference offense: 1.06 points per possession (3rd)
In-conference defense: 1.06 points per possession (3rd)

The NBA sends out a press release each spring listing the names of every early entrant for that year's forthcoming draft. When you take in the list, you can't help but notice something odd: There are always quite a few more names on it than there are slots in the draft. And remember, the list doesn't include draft-worthy college seniors. It has reached the point where you start to think if a player has caught even a glimpse from a pro scout, he's coming out. So when Michigan State's 2012-13 season ended amid a flurry of Seth Curry jumpers in the Sweet 16, few envisioned the Spartans entering the coming season as a consensus top-five outfit.

That's when a banner cycle of offseason events commenced, leaving coach Tom Izzo well positioned for a run at his second national title, and his first in 13 years. What changed?

First, there were minor ripples. Izzo filled an empty recruiting class by landing 6-foot-9 forward Gavin Schilling and 6-4 guard Alvin Ellis. Schilling, from suburban Las Vegas, was a late signee and is a typical Izzo big-man recruit. He's young for his class, athletic and raw, having been born overseas and coming to the game late. Ellis was scooped up after being released from his letter of intent with Minnesota when Tubby Smith was fired. Neither freshman-to-be figures to play a whole lot this season. Heck, given the developmental pattern of Izzo big men like the recently graduated Derrick Nix, Schilling may redshirt.

Both signees probably thought they saw opportunities in East Lansing. They thought wrong. First, super freshman guard Gary Harris announced that he would stick around for another season. Harris was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and MVP of last season's team. No doubt he'll benefit from another year under Izzo's tutelage, but there's also no doubt that he would have been taken early in the June draft.